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This Week in Movies: A thief, a hitman and a ghost

"The Duke" is charming, "Memory" is a headache and "Green Ghost" is unapologetically Texan.
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics


The Duke

No, this is not a movie about the college basketball team some love to hate. It's not even about a nobleman, though it is about a painting of one! 

Based on a true story from the 1960s.. a retired British bus driver, Kempton Bunton, is a man with a cause. Right now, he's against paying a tax to get television service. He sees that the British government has purchased a painting of the Duke of Wellington (the same one seen in the James Bond film, "Dr. No") for the equivalent of about $3 million today. So why not steal it and apply the reward to pay for the telly licenses of the needy elderly? He can always return it! Seems like a noble enough cause! His son thinks so. Is Bunton a felon or a folk hero? He's the star of his trial, that's for sure!

"The Duke" could not be more charming, largely in part to its cast. Jim Broadbent plays Bunton. His wife is none other than Helen Mirren. She plays a domestic and is worried that her husband's constant hijinks will cause her to lose her job. A secondary story about how each handles their mutual grief creates great empathy, and there's a twist at the end that you might not see coming. This is one is a truly enjoyable little caper. And opening week, you can take a friend for free if you see it at the Angelika Film Center and buy your ticket on their website!

(Sony Pictures Classics. Rated R. Running Time 1 hr. 36 mins. In Theaters Only)


If my memory serves me right, Liam Neeson has been making the same type of movie for years now: the skilled agent out for revenge. "Memory" is the latest, though this time he's a career criminal. 

Based on a Belgian film, his character 'Alex Lewis' is a hitman who wants out of the game when he's faced with a moral dilemma. The person ordering the hit (a high-powered Monica Bellucci) has crossed the line by wanting a young human trafficking victim killed. Alex won't do it, so he goes about killing others who want him to. Guy Pearce co-stars as an FBI agent who's also actively interested in the case. Alex also suffers from Alzheimer's, thus the film's title. He even writes reminders on his arms (a subtle nod to Pearce in "Memento," perhaps?), and he wants to accomplish his goals before it's too late.

"Memory" is directed by Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale," "The Legend of Zorro"). I went in with decent expectations and came away disappointed. It's a bit like when you have a dull headache and nothing really engages you. Another feature that caught my attention: it's set in El Paso. 'Turns out some exteriors were filmed there, but most of it was filmed in Bulgaria. Touche'!

(Open Road Films. Rated R. Running Time 1 hr. 54 mins. In Theaters Only.)

Green Ghost & the Masters of the Stone

Now to a 100% "Made in Texas" movie! 

The real-life Charlie Clark was raised in South Texas, spending much of his childhood with his nanny, whom he called 'Nana.' She shared with him the traditions from her native Mexico. Fast forward into middle age, and Clark is a successful car dealer with a fantasy, it would seem. He took his childhood story and embellished it into a feature film, "Green Ghost & The Masters of the Stone."

He plays a car dealer by day, luchador by night, "The Green Ghost," not "The Gringo," as he teases. His Nana has supernatural powers, but so does her evil sister. The Green Ghost and his best friends, Nana's real grandson and granddaughter, have to wrestle a green stone away from the sister's son and save humanity! But first he must train with a trio of masters, including Danny Trejo, who's more interested in boozing than fighting.

This movie does not take itself seriously. Clark not only stars, but also writes and executive produces this passion/vanity project which plays like a Saturday matinee B-movie of years past. Suffice it to say, Jack Black ("Nacho Libre") is safe!

(Gravitas Ventures. Rated PG-13. Running Time 1 hr 35 mins. In Theaters Only.)

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